by Lynda Doucette, hike leader
The June Classic Hike of the Smokies proved to be a great day for exploring the Smokies!
While the forecast was not perfect, we still had a good group of hikers meet at the Bradley Fork Trailhead at the back of the Smokemont Campground.
History of the area
After introductions, we learned a bit about the history of the Smokemont area — Bradleytown, Champion Fibre Company and the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC), which all came long before the park.
While most trail books direct hikers to start up the Bradley Fork Trail and turn onto the Smokemont Loop, our group hiked through the old town, logging camp, CCC camp, and now campground first and up the Smokemont Loop Trail.
The first couple of miles were a slow and steady climb uphill. We stopped along the way to breathe, rest and check out the flowers.
Wildflowers in bloom
The laurel along Smokemont Loop was in full glory! We saw lots of Indian pipe as well as summer bluets, flame azalea, bear corn, galax, wintergreen and more.
We reached the highest point (3,573 feet) at about the halfway point on the hike. We sat for a rest, snack, and to hear about the Trails Forever program as well as the newest program – Forever Places — aimed at preserving the historic structures.
The way down the mountain was much easier and faster.
That is until we reached the Bradley Fork bridge crossing!
A birch tree had fallen across the bridge and creek. It was going to be difficult to cross the bridge due to limbs and branches blocking it. And a creek crossing would mean either wet boots or crossing barefoot in really cold water.
Luckily, one intrepid hiker packed a foldable saw for just such a challenge! While most of the group patiently waited, two of us each took a turn using the saw to cut through the branches making it safer for everyone to cross.
Once we all finally got across the creek, it was an easy stroll on the Bradley Fork Trail back to the campground.
As we ended in the campground, we were rewarded for our hiking efforts with refreshments from New Belgium Brewing.
Thanks to Linda Spangler for providing her photographs for this post and many other FOTS blog posts.
The Classic Hikes are the second Tuesday of the month, from March through December.
Registration for one hike is $35 for new members, which includes a one-year FOTS membership and one hike, or $20 for current FOTS members.
You must register for the hike prior to the day of the hike.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Trails Forever improves GSMNP trails
Friends of the Smokies established the Trails Forever endowment in 2012, thanks to a matching gift from the Aslan Foundation in Knoxville.
Today, the endowment has grown to more than $6 million and funds a full-time trail crew in Great Smoky Mountains National Park to reconstruct and rehabilitate some of the park’s most impacted trails.
This year, Trails Forever is restoring the Abrams Creek Trail.
Learn more about contributing to the Trails Forever endowment.